Maryland’s Unique State Symbols, from Cats to Sports

Kimberly Bean
Kimberly Bean
Published on February 8, 2018

Maryland has a lot of state symbols. You already know about its colorful flag, which shows the coats of arms of the Calvert and Crossland families. You may also know the unofficial state motto: “Strong deeds, gentle words.” And if you’ve paid attention on Preakness day, you know the state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

State bird? Oriole. State flower? Black-eyed Susan.

All states have these symbols. But if you pore through the list of Maryland symbols online, you’ll find that The Old Line State has plenty of unique symbols. Here are a few of our favorites.


In 1989, the blue crab was officially declared the state crustacean by the General Assembly. (Like all official state symbols, it was designated by the assembly and signed into law by the governor.) Frankly, we’re surprised it took until 1989!


Look through the list, and you’ll see that many of the animals chosen as state symbols – like the black and orange oriole – were picked because their colors are on the Calvert seal. It’s true for the state insect, the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, which was designated in 1973 because of its orange, black, and white wings.

Cat and Dog

Marylanders love their pets, so perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked that we have official companions for the state. The official state cat is the calico cat – it’s orange, black, and white coloring looks a lot like the colors in the Calvert family seal. The cat was designated a state symbol in 2001. In 1964, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was named the state dog. According to Wikipedia, the dog was bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters.


College football and basketball may rule the airwaves, and local pro sports teams have lots of Maryland fans, but the state’s sports are a little more traditional. In 2008, the assembly designated walking as the state exercise. (See our articles about hiking in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, and nearby counties.)

Maryland was the first state to adopt a state exercise. It was also the first, in 1962, to adopt a state sport, which is jousting. There’s an annual state jousting championship, and tournaments have been held in the state since colonial times.

But it doesn’t stop there! Maryland has a state team sport, too: Lacrosse. Played by Native American tribes, the sport is known as the oldest in North America. Maryland is home to the Lacrosse Museum and National Hall of Fame.

Ancient History

You already know that several spots in Southern Maryland are great for fossil hunting. If you’re lucky, you might find the state fossil in your search – it’s the shell of an extinct snail.

Maryland has a state dinosaur, Astrodon johnstoni, an herbivore that lived in Maryland during the Early Cretaceous period. Fossils from the dinosaur were first found in Maryland in Prince George’s County in 1858.


We couldn’t end without a look at Maryland’s state dessert: Smith Island Cake. The cake has eight to 10 layers of yellow cake separated and covered by chocolate frosting. In fact, this decadent confection would probably go great with the state drink: Milk.

(Smith Island Cake image via Wikipedia)

Learn more about these and other Maryland state symbols at the Maryland State Archives’ website.

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